By Nikki Harper
Staff Writer for Wake Up World
Astrology can be a controversial subject, with fervent followers and equally fervent detractors. As an astrologer, you quickly get used to people dismissing your subject out of hand. After all, it’s all made up nonsense, right? And there are 13 signs, anyway, not 12. And it’s ridiculous to claim that planets millions or even billions of miles away are causing us to act in a certain way. And they say the sun is a planet when it isn’t. And they say our fate is predetermined, with no free will. And they tell you the earth is at the center of the universe. And anyway the signs don’t even line up with where they used to be. And I’m a Leo but I hate drama. And I’m married to a Gemini and they say that Leo and Gemini aren’t a good match. And why in the world would one twelfth of the whole world’s population be going to have a bad day next Thursday?
Actually, neither I nor any astrologer I have ever dealt with has said or believes these kinds of things, all of which are based on fundamental misunderstandings of what astrology is and what it claims to do. I make no effort to convince anyone that astrology can be a useful psychological and spiritual tool; that’s up to each of us to discern for ourselves. If you’re cautiously interested in astrology, though, but have been put off by some of these myths and misunderstandings, here’s a rundown of the top five astrology myths – debunked. Understanding where astrologers are coming from may help you better decide whether this is something you’d like to pursue or not.
1 – There are 13 Signs, not 12 and I’m Now an Ophiuchus Not a Scorpio!
No, there aren’t, and no, you’re not. This myth periodically resurfaces and is usually attributed to NASA having ‘discovered’ a new constellation and thereby created or discovered a new zodiac sign. The last time this did the rounds on social media was only a couple of weeks ago.
NASA have not discovered a new constellation, or a new zodiac sign. Astrology signs are NOT, repeat NOT, the same as astronomical constellations. Ophiuchus is a very large constellation which has been visible for thousands of years. It does sit between the astronomical constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius, but that does not mean it was missed out of the zodiac – did you know that there are actually 88 officially recognized constellations in the night sky? It’s not like astrologers just accidentally missed out Ophiuchus, silly astrologers! For this myth to make any sense at all, NASA would had to have discovered 76 new ‘zodiac signs’ and rewritten the history of astrology altogether. Which they, um, didn’t.
Astrology signs, zodiac signs, sun signs – call them what you will – are effectively units of measurement which were named after a selection of constellation, but have nothing more concrete than that to do with the constellations of the same name. Each astrology sign measures 30 degrees of the ecliptic. We may say that Mars is currently at 12 degrees Leo – but this is just a shorthand, symbolic way of saying that Mars is currently at 132 degrees of the ecliptic. The signs could really have been named anything, they’re just measuring/marking these twelve 30 degree sectors. The ‘discovery’ (not) of a new astronomical constellation is therefore completely irrelevant.
2 – The Astrology Signs Don’t Match Up with the Constellations Anyway
This is actually true – but the corresponding assertion that ‘therefore astrology is nonsense’ has no basis. The truth behind this misunderstanding is quite complex. It’s partly to do with the fact we covered above, that astrology signs are NOT the same as constellations. It’s also to do with something called the precession of the equinoxes. This is an astronomical phenomena which has been known since at least 300BC. When the sun rises on the morning of the vernal equinox in March each year, astrologers say that this marks 0 degrees Aries, and the start of an astrological new year. This is the point from which we start to count those 30 degree sectors in the sky. Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, the sun would indeed have risen at this time in front of the astronomical constellation called Aries.
However, due to a wobble in the earth’s axis (the precession of the equinoxes), the point at which the sun rises on the vernal equinox gradually shifts, over the course of 25,800 years, against the background of different astronomical constellations. In this modern age, when the sun rises on the vernal equinox, it is against the backdrop of the astronomical constellation of Pisces, not Aries. Here’s a short video explaining how it works:
What does this tell us about astrology? Nothing much. Because, remember, the astrological signs are shorthand for those 30 degree sectors around the ecliptic. These sectors always begin at the point of the vernal equinox, with the first 30 degree named Aries, the second 30 degrees named Taurus, and so on. That the vernal equinox now takes place aligned with the astronomical constellation of Pisces is interesting, but not broadly relevant.
Then only way the precession of the equinoxes is relevant to astrology is in the concept of astrological ‘ages’. Because the vernal equinox point is now against the backdrop of Pisces, we say we are in the astrological age of Pisces. Thousands of years ago, it was the astrological age of Aries. At some point, it will become the much talked-about astrological age of Aquarius – but astrologers cannot agree on when this will happen, or if it has already happened, because it depends on where you define the boundaries of the astronomical constellations. In his book World Horoscopes, respected astrological researcher Nick Campion lists six pages worth of suggested dates collated from the research of other astrologers, ranging from as long ago as 1447 through 2012 to as far ahead as 3597! Besides, not all astrologers even agree that astrological ‘ages’ are a thing, so….
3 – Astrologers Believe that Planets Somehow Cause Things to Happen on Earth
Nope. We don’t. No astrologer I’ve ever dealt with believes that there is a cause and effect at play here. The astrologer’s creed is ‘as above, so below’. Astrology is a symbolic language, above all else, and the basic concept is that the dance of the planets (and yes, we do know that neither the Sun nor the Moon are actually planets) and the complex angles they create between one another symbolically REFLECTS the prevailing energy on earth.
In other words, astrology works on the principle that there is a relationship between celestial events and events on earth, but it is not a cause and effect relationship. Nothing to do with gravity or electromagnetism or any other physical effect.
4 – Astrology Claims to Predict the Future (Thereby Negating Free Will)
No, it doesn’t. Astrology cannot predict the future, because each of us has free will and can shape our own future. However, because we can predict the exact movements of the planets, which are believed to reflect the energies co-occurring at time on earth, we can and do try to predict what kinds of energies might be at play at any given point in the future.
My old astrology tutor used to liken it to a weather forecast. We can tell you whether it’s likely to be raining in the middle of next week. But whether you choose to hunker down at home, swearing and brooding, or whether you choose to go out and dance in the rain – that is free will. That is up to you.
But what about horoscopes, telling you that next Thursday you will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger? Of course, it’s not realistic to say that one twelfth of all humanity will experience the same thing on any given day – which is why sun sign horoscopes, as entertaining as they may be, are of extremely limited use. They’re popular, and if well written with proper astrological insight they can sometimes be revealing, but typically only for people whose sun sign is very strong and who were also born in roughly the middle of that sun sign period (because of the way most horoscopes are calculated). Horoscopes are popular, which is why astrologers keep writing them, but no astrologer I know would pretend that they are 100% accurate for everyone, or anything more than a well-meant generalization.
5 – Astrology is Only About Sun Signs – But I Don’t Feel Like a Gemini
No, no, no. Astrology does not classify the whole of humanity into twelve classes which define your whole life. At the time you were born, every planet was somewhere in the sky above you. Depending on the date and time and place of your birth, we create a map of the planetary locations for that time and place. This is your birth chart. Your birth chart has every planet in it, somewhere. And for a proper astrology reading, the birth chart as a whole must be considered, and the nuanced interplay of dozens of different positions, angles and movements must be carefully synthesized and interpreted.
The sun is indeed considered to be a powerful part of a birth chart, but far from the only part. The Ascendant is also important – the sign rising in the east at the moment of your birth. So is the midheaven – the sign directly overhead. So are the positions of the moon and all of the other planets, and in particular the angles they form between one another. In many charts, the sun is in the end not even the most dominant or powerful force in a chart; in many others, its importance is heavily mitigated by other factors.
If you’re ‘a Gemini’, that just means that the sun was in Gemini when you were born. If you don’t think you act or feel or behave like ‘a typical Gemini’, you’re probably right, and there are umpteen potential reasons for that, depending which other factors are stronger in your individual chart.
It’s for this reason, by the way, that all of the ‘Gemini goes well with Virgo but not with Leo’ stuff in relationship guides must be taken with an enormous pinch of salt. Because we are all unique, diverse individuals, each with our own blessings and faults, the truth is that any sun sign may go well with any other sun sign – or not. Human relationships are far too complex to be reduced to sun signs. Relationship astrology – synastry – can do a good job of analyzing a given relationship and finding ways to help it thrive, but that is done via detailed comparison of both individuals’ whole birth charts, and of the astrological factors affecting both of them in that time period.
If you feel that astrology doesn’t resonate with you, then of course that’s fine, nobody compels you to find it interesting or useful. However, I hope to have at least cleared up some of the most common reasons people give for dismissing astrology; it is a far more complex and nuanced art than most of its detractors understand, and it does not actually make most of the claims for which its critics so despise it.
About the author:
Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and Wake Up World’s editor.